Suspicion quickly fell on the parking lot’s security guard, Raymond Jennings, an ex-soldier new to the job. Homicide detectives interviewed him numerous times, gave him a lie-detector test and told him that his story – that he heard gunfire and saw her car roll backward out of its parking spot but didn’t see who fired the gun – didn’t make sense. A wrongful-death lawsuit filed by O’Keefe’s parents against the city and the security firm it hired labeled Jennings a suspect. Finally, on Dec. 13, after Jennings returned to Lancaster from a tour of duty with the National Guard in Iraq, his van was stopped on a city street and he was arrested on a warrant on suspicion of murder in O’Keefe’s death. Authorities still haven’t detailed what led them five years later to charge him with the crime, other than to say that the nature of the evidence had changed from developments in the lawsuit case. w=12 l=16Deluge The Antelope Valley’s wettest year on record flooded homes, washed out dozens of roads – some of which remain closed 10 months later – and led to the death of a toddler as a helicopter was plucking her family from a vehicle stranded in the rain-swelled Little Rock Wash. Rainfall from October 2004 to October 2005 – Southern California’s traditional rain year – amounted to 20.96 inches, beating the previous record of 18.41 inches set in 1941-42. Most of last year’s rain fell in an unusually strong October 2004 thunderstorm and in three powerful storms in December, January and February. In Quartz Hill, the Dec. 27-31 and Jan. 10-11 storms flooded dozens of homes, businesses and garages – even the Quartz Hill library. Roads across the eastern valley were flooded by the Jan. 9-10 storm, which dumped rain on top of San Gabriel Mountains snow and sent it melting down desert washes. The roads flooded again with the Feb. 19-21 storm. Green Valley, a hamlet of about 1,000 inhabitants in the mountains between Santa Clarita and Palmdale, was almost completely isolated by the Jan. 9-10 storm, which sent mudslides into homes and washed out San Francisquito and Bouquet Canyon roads. San Francisquito Canyon Road, an alternative commuter route for Antelope Valley residents, isn’t expected to open until early spring, and even then will use a temporary bridge made from three railroad flatcars. Commuters have been guided through the construction zone for several months. Quartz Hill property owners in October overwhelmingly rejected paying an annual assessment to help finance an underground drain that would channel the storm runoff through their community’s downtown. The next month, Antelope Valley voters overwhelmingly rejected creating a valleywide flood control district that could have brought with it a hefty new property tax. w=12 l=16Home prices skyrocket In the Antelope Valley’s third housing boom since World War II, home prices are skyrocketing. Median prices – the point at which half of the houses sold for more and half for less – topped $365,000 in Palmdale and $316,000 in Lancaster in November, more than four times what they were at the bottom of the 1990s recession that followed the previous housing boom. Back in December 1999, before the recent rapid increase, median sales prices were $84,000 in Palmdale and $75,000 in Lancaster. Even with the rapid run-up, valley prices remain among the lowest in Los Angeles County. The late 1950s and late 1980s booms ended with defense industry cutbacks and real-estate busts, which sent prices plummeting and left homes sitting vacant, so valley old-timers are wondering how long this one will last. Certainly home builders hope the boom is a long one: Hundreds of homes are under construction in the 5,000-home Anaverde master-planned community, where the first families moved in this spring on what had been cattle-grazing land in the Anaverde Valley in southwest Palmdale. Just to the west, builders are laying streets and other infrastructure for the 7,200-home Ritter Ranch master-planned community. Both developments had been proposed in the early 1990s but were held up by recession, and in the Ritter Ranch case by bankruptcy and years of legal wrangling. w=12 l=16Space shuttle returns Nearly 2 years after space shuttle Columbia disintegrated re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, shuttle Discovery returned the shuttle fleet to space and came home safely. Bad weather over Florida put Discovery’s homecoming at Edwards Air Force Base, where all the early shuttle flights landed. After spending nearly 14 days in orbit, America’s oldest surviving shuttle made a picture-perfect landing before dawn Aug. 9 on Edwards’ main runway. The return proved an eye-opener for hundreds of thousands of Southern Californians, jolted awake by the distinctive double sonic booms of the returning shuttle for the first time in more than three years. The shuttle fleet’s future remains in doubt. A day after Discovery blasted off, NASA officials put a hold on future launches after video footage showed the external fuel tank dislodging a piece of foam insulation much larger than officials believed could come off. Fuel-tank insulation that came loose at launch had doomed Columbia in 2003. No firm date has been set for the next shuttle launch: NASA says it will come no earlier than May. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin and a Northrop Grumman-Boeing team are competing to build the nation’s next manned spaceship, to be called the Crew Exploration Vehicle. NASA is looking to select one team in 2006 to build the craft, which will replace the space shuttle for carrying Americans into space and will later be part of a system to return man to the moon. w=12 l=16JetHawks sold The Lancaster JetHawks minor league baseball team ended its 10-year relationship with the family that brought professional baseball to Lancaster. An Ohio-based partnership headed by a corporate lawyer who owns two other minor-league teams bought the team, which the Ellis family moved from Riverside in 1996 to a $14.3 million stadium built for the team by the city of Lancaster. Attorney Peter Carfagna Sr. was named chairman and secretary/treasurer. His oldest son, Peter Carfagna Jr., is senior vice president and presides over day-to-day operations. The younger Carfagna works in the same capacity for the Carfagnas’ Everett, Wash., Aquasox and Lake County, Ohio, Captains. At the Nov. 3 news conference announcing the sale, the elder Carfagna said the area’s meteoric population growth figured in the decision to buy the franchise, which he said has great growth potential. “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think so,” he said. JetHawks’ attendance has dropped by more than half since the inaugural year, and the city has reduced the team’s lease payments for the stadium three times. w=12 l=16Antelope Valley Hospital wars Palmdale officials’ years-long effort to attract a hospital to accommodate the city’s growing population turned both successful and controversial. The day before the June 2 groundbreaking ceremony for a new privately owned hospital on Palmdale Boulevard at Tierra Subida Avenue, public Antelope Valley Hospital offered to buy the hospital site itself for $9.3 million. City officials turned down the offer, and hospital officials called the city’s deal to help private Universal Health Services build the hospital an illegal gift of public funds. Hospital officials earlier acknowledged that they considered using their power of eminent domain to take over the land, but later said they were not pursuing that option. The battle then moved to critical television ads paid for by Antelope Valley Hospital. City officials offered the hospital district $500,000 if it would build a hospital in east Palmdale, and filed three lawsuits against the hospital district board. The suit accused the board of violating the state’s public meeting law in discussions of the Palmdale hospital site and of failing to live up to its agreement in operating an east Palmdale clinic. Hospital district officials have said they fear that a new private hospital would draw off patients with insurance, leaving Antelope Valley Hospital caring for a higher percentage of patients unable to pay for their treatment. Hospital district officials say they are, in fact, willing to support the new hospital provided that UHS enters into a contract to provide services for poor people covered by the state’s Medi-Cal program. UHS officials said they will investigate a Medi-Cal contract, but that it is too early to sign one, since the hospital won’t take in patients for years. UHS, which operates Lancaster Community Hospital, hopes to open Palmdale Regional Medical Center in 2007. w=12 l=16Quartz Hill High plot Two teenagers who used to attend Quartz Hill High School were arrested Dec. 15 after authorities were told that they were planning a Columbine-style attack on Valentine’s Day in retaliation for being teased for their “Goth” appearance. The boys, ages 15 and 17, had acquired bomb-making instructions off the Internet and detonated practice bombs in the desert, authorities said. Sheriff’s deputies said the 17-year-old admitted that the plan included shooting students and using improvised explosive devices. The 15-year-old said the plan was to “kill all of the students who have made fun of him at school and then commit suicide.” Adding an indication that this was something more than youths talking big was the boys’ previous trouble with the law: They were on probation in connection with a 2003 assault in which a 14-year-old boy was sodomized with a metal rod. The suspects had attended Quartz Hill High School but were transferred to other schools because of discipline problems this fall. The 15-year-old enrolled at Desert Sands Charter School and the older boy at Littlerock High School. Sheriff’s deputies began investigating after a teenage girl told a Quartz Hill High vice principal that friends told her the 15-year-old did not like her and was planning to kidnap and torture her and cut off her arms and legs. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! PALMDALE – A teenage boy killed by a younger teen with a baseball bat after a youth baseball game, the arrest of a suspect in the 5-year-old slaying of a college student and torrential rains that washed out dozens of local roads are among 2005’s top Antelope Valley news events. Here are some of the significant events that touched us locally in 2005: w=12 l=16Baseball bat death People across the United States were shocked by the death of 15-year-old Jeremy Rourke, hit in the head with a baseball bat after teasing a younger boy about losing a youth baseball game. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake Thirteen-year-old Greg Harris Jr. was sentenced in July to confinement in the California Youth Authority until he is 25 after being convicted of second-degree murder in Juvenile Court. Harris’ conviction has been appealed; Rourke’s parents are suing the Palmdale PONY League and the Harris family over the death. Both sets of parents appeared in November on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to defend their sons. Greg’s parents said he was frightened by the older, bigger boy and didn’t intend to kill him; Jeremy’s parents said their son had not been bullying the younger boy. w=12 l=16Parking-lot killing arrest On a cold February night in 2000, 18-year-old Michelle O’Keefe got out of a friend’s car in a Palmdale Park and Ride lot after returning from working as an extra in a Kid Rock video. She never made it the rest of the way home: She was shot to death in her brand-new Ford Mustang, which was found with its engine running and driver’s door open.